Design Project Rationale

This design project has been designed for students studying Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Level 3.  The syllabus consists of six units, which are based on acquiring the knowledge and practical skills required by employers. The ability to use spread-sheets is a fundamental work skill for accountants, and the AAT have included the new unit ‘Using Spreadsheet Software’ at the request of employers who need employees to be IT literate.

The spread-sheet unit was introduced last year and did prove problematic.  There is a high differentiation in prior knowledge of spread-sheet use in students on the course.  Some have used spread-sheet software at school, some have used it at work, and some have not used it at all.  Moreover, as using spread-sheets is purely skills based, students naturally learn at different paces.  However, it is important that all students cover all aspects of the syllabus, as this unit is specific to accounting use of spread-sheets, and covers aspects such as ‘What if’ analysis, and pivot tables which many students have not covered practically before. The assessment is based on a workplace scenario and requires students to ensure the spread-sheet is fit for purpose.

The video tutorials have therefore been designed to guide students through the spread-sheet syllabus using practical tasks based on other accounting units in the course.  Before producing the tutorials I considered literature based on principles of instructional design.

Principles of instructional design have been available for at least two hundred years. J.F. Herbart’s (1776-1841) ‘first principles’ included ‘preparing pupils ready for the lesson’, ‘presenting the lesson’, ‘associating the lesson with prior learning’, ‘using examples’, and ‘testing pupils’, which correlates with a four-phase cycle of instruction consisting of ‘activation’, ‘demonstration’, ‘application’, and ‘integration’ (Merrill, 2008)

Merrill (2008) goes on to suggest that the most important phase is the first, activation. The instruction should be taught in context using real-world problems. Furthermore, making students aware of the structure of the course helps them to summarise information.  In the demonstration phase the students should be guided to relate new information to this structure.  By applying the new knowledge, students can use the structure to complete the task.  Finally, in the integration phase, students can commit this knowledge into their working memory for future application (Merrill, 2008)

The design of the video tutorials follows this four-phase cycle.  The outcomes of the learning are clearly stated; information is given regarding the learning outcomes and students are told that they will work through an accounting activity which relates specifically to their studies.  In addition, the tutorials explain that they will be able to achieve the outcomes by working through the tutorials, and completing activities.  The students progress as they work through the activities.  It is intended to produce a series of tutorials to cover the syllabus and appropriate stepped guidance will relate to prior learning in the series. As each short tutorial is followed by an activity, the learners will immediately be able to apply the skills demonstrated.

Following research into multimedia learning and its effect on cognitive learning Richard Mayer found that learners were able to learn more deeply from well-designed multimedia presentations which used words and pictures, and has expanded on the ‘first principles’ to provide a set of principles for multimedia learning. (2003, in Merrill, 2008).

The Multimedia effect states that “students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone” (Mayer, 2003 in Edutech Wiki, 2009).   The video tutorials include relevant images and animations to accompany the narration

The Contiguity effect found that “students learn better when corresponding pictures are presented near together”. (Mayer, 2003 in Edutech Wiki, 2009).   For example, in the video tutorial 1.2 Entering text data, the use of the tab key is mentioned and an image is displayed.  On a first draft, I realised the image was too far away from the animation and was not displayed for long enough, which meant that the image was in effect ignored. In the final tutorial, the image is held on screen for the duration of the explanatory narrative.

The Personalisation effect refers to findings that “students learn more deeply when the words are presented in a conversational rather than formal style”. (Mayer, 2003 in Edutech Wiki, 2009).    The narration in the tutorials is informative but not formal. For example, suggested ways of completing a task are sometimes given, rather than implicit instructions. In any case, an attempt to personalise the narrative too much could interfere with the Coherence effect.

The Coherence effect is that “students learn more deeply when extraneous material is excluded”. (Mayer, 2003 in Edutech Wiki, 2009).    Therefore, an attempt was made to relate any narrative specifically to the images or animation on screen.  Any additional information, for example an explanation of how accountants could use a particular function, is displayed when the animation/screen information is not critical to learning.

The Modality and Redundancy principles refer to research which found that working memory comprises of two interacting processing channels: the visuo-spatial in the form of images, and the verbal-acoustic in the form of words (Baddeley, 2010).  Mayer (2003) found that overloading of either of these channels was detrimental to learning (Mayer, 2003 in Edutech Wiki, 2009).   For example,  words should be presented as speech  rather than onscreen text when images are being viewed,  and words in text should not accompany audio narration.  In the tutorials onscreen text has been kept to a minimum.  However, in the introductory tutorial the learning outcomes have been shown as text, with an accompanying narration, as it was felt important that the learners should be aware of the learning outcomes.  In the same tutorial instructions the modality principle has been adhered to as far as possible for example, ‘you will watch a video and then complete an activity’ shows an image accompanied by narration.

It is hoped that by following well researched principles this series of video tutorials will provide a rich learning experience for students.  Qualitative feedback will be gathered to further enhance the activity.


Baddeley, A (2010)., Working memory, Current Biology, Vol 20, Issue 4, pp 136-140

Edutech Wiki (2009), Multimedia Presentation, Available: http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Multimedia_presentation.  Last accessed: 4th January 2012

Mayer, R.E., (2002) The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media, Learning and Instruction, Vol 13, Issue 2, pp 125 -139

Merrill, M. D., Barclay, M., van Schaak, A., (2008) Prescriptive Principles for Instructional Design in Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (Aect),3rd ed., edited by J. M.  Spector, M. D. Merrill, J van Merrienboer and M. P. Driscoll, pp173-184, Abingdon, Taylor and Francis Group.


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